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Some of our leftwing visitors will scream at this.I support it as an experiment worth making.

Wouldn't this require more social housing to be built to replace that which is lost from the available pool when sold to good tenants?

It strikes me that these proposals have been built on a banal and stereotyped view of council accomodation and council tennants. There are some problem areas but most people that live in council accomodation are decent ordinary people. Is it really wise to 'press' people into home ownership.

I lived in Sweden and Denmark during the 1980s and most people there rented both social and private accomodation and had a high standard of living because they had more disposible income to spare. As some of us know only too well, home ownership swallows up income like nothing else and people living in an economy like ours with its low-pay and part-time work structures can ill afford to think about taking on such levels of debt.

There is also the question of an ever shrinking pool of social housing if tennants become stakeowners. There is no guarantee that the private sector can provide enough affordable housing to meet demand. Particularly in a world in which the property market has taken a severe bruising.

Some logic failure here.

Given a choice would you buy a house in violent and dysfunctional "ghetto"

You wont be able to sell it

What is point?

There is also the question of an ever shrinking pool of social housing if tennants become stakeowners.

Is that a bad thing though? we have too much social housing as it is, and if you sell a house to someone you are also taking them off the list, so it's result is neutral on the demand while reducing the council's maintainance costs on aging housing.

I was advocating something` very similar to this yesterday on a thread about Scotlands poor. IDS is absolutely correct we should tear down these pockets of under achievement and integrate these people into the mass of suburbia. I do however recognize that this will require an investment of public money as well as an increase in the over all provision of social housing. I am less certain about the notion of removing the right to stay that is currently part of a secured tendency, it would have to be replaced with a right to remain housed. Some of the people who are targeted will make the right moves get good jobs and take their families out of the estates. What I do not want to see is families being forced out of their homes because they are unable to secure a good job, that would be a very backward move. I would like to see some of the worse sink estate pulled down, as the housing is of such a poor quality in the first place. This doesn’t mean we need to build new estates, I believe we should add a few social houses to every new build and in this way we can settle these people in with the rest of the community. I am all in favor of schemes that give part ownership to suitable tenants but this is only possible were the housing is of high quality. Rather than this being a very right wing scheme I worry that it will be seen as a big state solution and will not gain the full support of the party. That would be a great shame as Ian is certainly thinking outside of the box and coming up with some very sensible suggestions.

Norm Brainer, we already have enough problems with homelessness and it doesn't help that many in the private sector won't rent to people on benefits. Unfortunately in a low-wage economy not everyone can realistically aspire to home ownership and private rented accmodation in some areas of the country is just too expensive.

Social housing, like welfare and the NHS is necessary because many people in our country are poor. Its easy to intellectually muse over the question of ending social housing but the reality would lead to people with families living in anxiety as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads.

Social mobility often requires physical mobility too -- tieing 'decent' people to sink estates is the same misguided socialist policy as forcing all children into the local comprehensive in the vain hope that the 'decent' parent will force up the quality of the school.

Let the decent people escape - don't dump the responsibility for improving the local area on them. If local councils have failed to do this with all the resources at their disposal, then what hope do these people have -- don't crush them with yet more demands, give them an escape route...

Unless, of course, you yourself are prepared to move onto a sink-estate permanently and show us that it can be done.

Tony Makara said:

"Its easy to intellectually muse over the question of ending social housing but the reality would lead to people with families living in anxiety as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads."

I understand what you are saying, I believe the removal of the right to a life long tenancy of a single house would have to be replaced with a right to remain housed. Otherwise some very vulnerable people could find themselves homeless as a result of an otherwise well-intentioned policy.

The very worse estates should be pulled down.

The Bishop Swine, I take your point. However constant re-housing would break up communities and we have to consider the effects on children's schooling and that of families who live close together and need each other as part of a support system. Elderly parents often rely on familiy members to help them live with a degree of independence. The whole question is more complex than first appears and we can't hope to mend broken communities if we keep breaking them up into disjointed units.

Well hopefully Tony, it would be one move out of a sink estate, and into a good home. Of course this would have to be done with the full agreement of the tenant. Some of the Estates can be improved, but some of the very worse are beyond repair and need to be pulled down. Whatever way we look at this problem; it is clear that a large investment is needed if we are going to get it right. I think it is very important that we take center stage in the debates about Welfare reform, and hopefully we will come up with some real answers to these long term and difficult problems, a legacy (in many case’s) of the 1960’s Labour governement.

The Bishop Swine, its very important that we don't equate bad estates with social housing in general. A large part of the anti-social behaviour on such estates is down to school age children and perhaps the increased presence of beat-patrols under a Conservative government might help there.

It hasn't escaped my attention that these proposals have been released to coincide with Purnell's news blitz today. We have stay alert and make sure that welfare reform is actually aimed at helping people rather than simply topping anything the government comes up with. Welfare reform musn't become a political football, because if it does it will lose all credibility.

I don't think the punitive language used by the likes of IDS, Chris Grayling and even David Cameron help us to state the case for reform and all of the positive proposals for training etc get lost in the hardman rhetoric.

Ultimately the question of welfare will only be resolved when we can create the millions of jobs needed to take people off benefits. Otherwise all we are doing is managing welfare and trying to massage statistics. The balance has to be right.

This is attacking the problem from the wrong angle.

The assumption made here, and in all discussions round this subject is that the lack of money is somehow an excuse for people to be less decent than those with money. That's rubbish and it's time we stopped pussyfooting round the problem.

No matter how little money people have it is still possible to live decently within the law, bring up children decently, keep property in a good clean state, or strive to contribute.

So the problem is NOT the lack of money, it is the type of person. These people have to be made to see that they are being given something (social housing) and that they therefore have the responsibility of acting decently and respecting other peoples property.

If they can't do this, then why should we take the responsibility of providing housing? Kick them out and let them walk the streets instead, it's their choice, not ours.

For far too long this society has put up with an all take & no give society from certain sectors.

I would agree with your last para but certainly not the second last Graeme. Having people on the streets is not the answer to anything in a civilised society.
Tony if you think IDS is so wrong, what would you do about this problem?
In my experience the number of people who behave badly on even the worst estates is very small. However they can make the lives of many a misery.

Malcolm - so what else are we to do with those who just won't take any responsibility?

I agree there are very few and the problem is not "council estates" - it's a few of the people on them, so how are we to resolve this?

I'm constantly seeing what I would refer to as "scum" who just don't want to be part of society - and I know that I am paying for them. Why?

For the want of a better example, take the parents of "Baby P", just why should we give people like this housing, benefits etc and allow them to breed?

I don't agree with kicking people out on the streets, but I don't class social housing like the NHS.

NHS is like what the BBC and trains should be - not just for those that can't afford better but a decent public service.
Social Housing should be a welfare issue and people should be given opportunities to climb out of it.

There's talk of ending 'right to buy' etc as it takes away housing stock and there are millions of people on waiting lists already.
It shows a problem that too many people are eligable for waiting lists but giving someone the ability to buy their house doesn't mean that they are denying someone on the waiting list a house as they may not have ever moved or bought somewhere else, so this reduces the amount of people in social housing and also gives the council some money to build more, if they choose to (although often don't)

I do think there is too much emphasis on ownership in this country and part-ownership just seems a bit of a weird way to put the prices up, but in this case it's good.

One of the big messes of letting council property move into private ownership is when that council property is flats or towers. I suggest that these properties should never be sold into private ownership, unless as a whole into Housing Association ownership. Having mixed ownership in a tower or flats is harmful to the interests of both parties.
Houses are another matter. Land is the most expensive element of a house, and I would suggest some kind of scheme whereby existing council houses could be sold after the council has acquired replacement land somewhere else (cheaply or more cheaply than private companies can (this is not so radical, small local development companies are going out of business as the nationals bid out land). You could then hopefully hit a 2:1 or greater replacement of sold existing housing. To keep the aspirations of towers and flats occupants up, this new replacement must be offered to towers/flats occupants first.
This then should leave the towers/flats (of which no more should be built) as true social housing and also profit centres as I would guess have more than recovered their initial capital outlay.

I have no criminal record, have never done drugs, I worked hard at school and I currently work for a living.

Does IDS think that due to my good behaviour I should receive assistance in paying off my mortgage?

The duty of the government is not to reward people for being model citizens but to deal with those who step out of line.

"Does IDS think that due to my good behaviour I should receive assistance in paying off my mortgage?"

Of course and you get it. By having the education to get you a job which enables you to pay the mortgage.

To be honest, not having read the IDS report I don't quite get the proposal. Is it going beyond right to buy so that there would be a transfer on good behaviour grounds? What is the theory? That well-behaved tenants who become owners will then revitalise the area and that badly behaved tenants will see the benefit they can get by being nice? Perhaps I'm too much of a cynic to think that's realistic either way.

Increasing ownership without maintaining the total stock of social housing so that it meets demand/need strikes me as a very good way of increasing the gap between social tenants and the broader society. In the past this gap was large but stable in that social housing was lived in by a large proportion of broader society, not the workless underclass but the working classes generally. Right to buy allowed the gap to be bridged by letting hard working working class people buy and get into the private ownership market. However, failure to replace stock as right to buy was exercised meant that by definition the remaining stock would shrink and become "toxic" as the remaining tenants would be more likely to be workless and even if in work would be in properties which were too unappealing to be worth buying. The gap is now even larger because much of the best social housing has already been privatised and even after big price falls, house prices are a very large multiple of the average earnings of social tenants.

As previously posted, I believe that a better solution would be to seek to integrate the social and private rental sectors (by means of mediumhold tenancies) so that there was a manageable path between being a social tenant and a private tenant AND back again if needed as well as narrowing the gap between buying and renting in terms of security in the provision of a home rather than seeing property as a pure investment.

"Tony if you think IDS is so wrong, what would you do about this problem?"

Malcolm, first we have to stop people from trying to equate being unemployed or being a single mother with being anti-social or criminal.

Secondly we do need to make certain problem tennants responsible for the upkeep of their property and surrounds and ensure that they respect their neighbours. However eviction is a difficult line to take when children are involved. Are we prepared to make a child homeless because its parents have poor social skills? Social housing accomdation should carry with it certain obligations but getting the balance right is another matter.

We really can't threaten to evict people if they don't 'get a job' when there are almost six million people on benefits and only just over half a million vacancies at the best end of the economic cycle. I have argued many times that 12 month fully-waged public works programmes should be built into the welfare system so that no-one ever becomes long-term unemployed. In other words the state should provide a guarantee of waged work which should be mandatory. This really is the only way to deal with long-term joblessness.


If they can't get a job ,fine. If they won't get a job that's another matter entirely.
I think IDS knows far too much about this subject to mistake unemployment or single parenthood with crime.There are plenty of people including my own mother who have been unemployed and single who have never committed any crimes.
This scheme is aimed at those who won't work. What would you do about them?

"This scheme is aimed at those who won't work. What would you do about them?"

Malcolm, I believe there is already a stipulation that JSA claimants have to be actively seeking work, which is quite right and perfectly fair. The problems will occur when the proposed plans to rein in JSA entitlement after two years if a person has been unemployed. As I stated earlier no politician can answer the fundamental question of how can millions of JSA claimants be shoehorned int just over half a million vacancies. The simple maths indicate that not everyone on benefit can work even if every single vacancy is filled. The recession may well mean that some people are out of work for two years by the time of the next election. Are all these people to be denied social security?

The Conservative party needs to drop the two-year rule because it is not only unfair and will lead to extreme poverty, but will cost votes too. If you've been out of work for a year due to the recession and can't find work are you going to vote for a party that will take your benefits away?

The only way to get the long-term unemployed into work is through public-works prgrammes built into the benefits system. That way the state could offer a 12 month work contract and the claimant would be expected to take it. Such programmes would also be an opportunity for the state to get something back for its money in terms of manpower.

So what will you do about the people who won't work!!!

Malcolm, there are already sanctions in place that can be applied to anyone who refuses to work, but the work must be available in the first place.

Now, if the party were to adopt my plan to build mandatory fully-waged 12 month public-works programmes into the benefits system then work would be guaranteed for the long-term unemployed and people would no longer be able to go years without working. Can you imagine what a revolutionary change that would bring to the benefits culture and in improving people's lives?

Margaret Thatcher had public works programmes, but they never really took off because they were voluntary. Such programmes have to be built into the welfare system to be of lasting value.

Tony, there are people where "no one in the house is actively seeking work, they don't count as "unemployed" and none claims Jobseeker's Allowance."
See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7746174.stm

A-tracy, thanks for the link. These households in which unemployment is generational are a major reason why we need waged work-programmes built into the benefits system, then no-one will fall through the net because all will have a guaranteed opportunity to work. Such programmes could involve 12 month contracts with the local MBC or a position in care and health services. Once the works contract is completed it may even lead to a permanent position, but even if not it will have given someone waged work and training for a year.

The current proposed plans for punitive workfare will not take people off benefits and will not empower the jobless financially. If we are serious about ending poverty in this country we have to do more than simply manage welfare. We have to provide a waged alternative.

This waged work-programmes, how many hours a week are you proposing, what payment per hour worked (even when training e.g. in NVQ or SVQ level 2 in Care?)? To top the benefits of £270 per week they would have to earn around £345 per week gross.

I took a quick look at the Job Centre website for none skilled jobs near Easterhouse there are some available.

It won't work. These people (those to whom IDS refers) do not want to work! Your idea does absolutely nothing at all for them.

A-Tracy, obviously each job would have its own pay structure. However the state is already having to pay 47-60 pounds a week in JSA plus full rent, plus full council tax rebate, so making this up to a full wage would not be as expensive as people seem to think. Particularly if the person working is the head of a large family.

The reality is that to do nothing means that nothing will change. We either provide waged work for the unemployed or we keep them indefinately on benefits. Waged works-programmes built into the benefits system would be a way of giving people work, guaranteed. It would end the soul-destroying culture of a lifetime on benefits. We have to accept that the private sector currently cannot produce enough jobs and we must provide a waged alternative.

If we already had a waged works-programme built into the benefits system no-one would ever have become long-term unemployed. It really is the answer to the problem of unemployment for those lost and trapped in the system.

Malcolm, if we had a mandatory waged works-programme built into the benefits system people could not refuse to work because JSA would be replaced by the works-programme after a given time. It is a guaranteed offer of work that would have to be taken. If people refused to go on the works-programme they would not be able to claim benefits. That would be perfectly fair given that the state has given them a guaranteed opportunity to engage in waged work.

Say a hospital engages a person on a waged works program, the head of the 'bbc family' would need £345 per week, are you suggesting we pay this person the equivalent amount of benefit as a cleaner say (as they have no other skills)? so effectively you'd guarantee them £9.20 per hour (for a 37.5 hour week) and you think the other staff would be ok with that?

I know women like the one in the BBC story, a couple will go from caring for children to caring for parents who up until that point were caring for themselves but when the child benefit stops the carers allowance can kick in.

A-Tracy, people should be paid at the going rate commensurate with their skills. Its worth bearing in mind that the state would not be giving them a wage, gratis, they would be earning it through work, they would no longer be on benefits.

Of course pay differentials would also vary in different regions. In effect the state would be employing the unemployed, creating a guarentee of work and ending long-term forever.

Tony Makara

I partly agree with you - but would look as a starting point as everyone having a guarneteed (say) two days a week at minimum wage.

The work done should not replace existing workers - I would prefer the new 'workforce' to be at the disposal of the local community free of charge to the beneficiary. I'd have my lawn cut regularly, car polished, leaves/snow cleared etc - I am paying for their benefits, why shouldn't I get the benefit by having things done that would otherwise not be done?

Not having to look after children, or having any experience of juggling school/work schedules, I have no idea how practical the following is but put it out for discussion.
One of the big drivers keeping people out of the work-place is childcare, not only its availability, but also its cost.
Would it make sense to fly the idea of Government day-nurseries doing a 13-14 hour day, providing 2 shifts of work? The cost to a consumer of such a service could be ralated to earnings.

More jobs created, perhaps even for mothers.

More people freed up to look for work, and less constrained by times and costs so that potential employers can look more on their abilities rather than their potential not to do o/time or be problematic in other ways.

Perhaps a more professional regulated service in that one Matron type figure can oversee lots of carers in action


Central provision may mean extra journeys and time )(hopefully overcome by 13-4 hour provision)

I have no idea of the costs vs JSA/Benefits vs stimulus to economy by increased labour availability

Abandoned children

Cost-cutting and form-filling leading to "Island Children" (abandoned souls in a sea of uncaring humanity around them)

Then I see no difference at all to that which IDS proposes. If you won't work you won't get benefit nor an equity stake in your home. I'm glad we are agreed.

PP, I think it might be possible to create a community task force dedicated to urban renovation, and as you say this should not impact on existing jobs. This task force would be paid a community wage to replace JSA but that wage should be at the going rate and in line with current employment legislation. Of course the number of hours worked would have to be determined in each instance, but the pay, by hour should at least be at the level of minimum wage, while the minimum wage exists. Of course that might change on the election of a Conservative government.

"Of course and you get it. By having the education to get you a job which enables you to pay the mortgage."

That education wasn't for free.

A community wage to replace JSA but that wage should be at the going rate and in line with current employment legislation. Good I would very much like to see the old community program given a new chance to shine. Of course wages must be both practical and reasonable. If Craftsmen are employed then they must be paid the going rate as with all grades. Such schemes did a lot of very good work in the 1982-86 time frame. However there is a big downside and that is cost. It will be important to recruit people with the vision to turn a profit rather than simply going back to the make work past.
There is certainly a lot of work than can be done in regenerating our urban areas. Isn’t it time to bring back the exciting supervised play schemes of yesteryear? That way we could reduce the weight of the games afflicted Labour generation of kids. We also need to bring back such great ideas as the start up schemes for small businesses that pay at least the JSA rate to people in their first year of being self employed. There are many ways that by the injection of relatively small sums we can improve our environment and encourage the best into a life free of dependences.

"Of course and you get it. By having the education to get you a job which enables you to pay the mortgage."

That education wasn't for free."

I am in favour of eduactional loans for mature unemployed people. To pay for training in the jobs that we have shortages of skilled people to fill. Its fair to expect people to take a part in their own future properity and it would be fair to expect a payback for the taxpayers.

If Craftsmen are employed then they must be paid the going rate as with all grades.

That is certainly not the intention of my proposal. I would propose that (say) two days work a week at minimum wage were available (pretty much) on demand to anyone who wanted to do them. The work requried of them must meet that profile - and tax paying citizens should be able to call on this resource at no charge (over what they have already paid in their taxes!).

With this available, 'handouts' to people capable of work should be minimised.

The Bishop Swine, good points. Margaret Thatcher's 'Community Prgramme' was a really good idea at a time of severe unemployment. For those to young to remember it, the Community Programme gave the long-term unemployed a guarantee of 12 months of waged-work. The scheme had one major flaw though, it was voluntary, now if a similar system were revived and built into the benefits system it would literally act as a saftey net to catch and help all those who are long-term unemployed because they are unskilled or have just simply given up hope of ever finding work. Once on the Community Scheme they would not only have waged work but would also be in a position to learn new skills.

The way I see it long-term unemployment isn't going to go away unless we build a waged-work opportunity into the benefits system. Depending on numbers and work-history a person would receive JSA for 6-12 months, after which they would then be expected to enter waged work on the community programme. There would no longer be any possibility of spending more than a year on benefits.

It strikes me as bizarre that the state has at hand enormous manpower that it can employ to renovate urban areas, provide care work, etc. Yet, politicians never make use of this great reserve of manpower. One great benefit of a community prgramme is that the state would be getting something back for its money in terms of labour and the jobless would be getting a living-wage.

I really believe a community programme, paying a community wage, is the answer to long-term unemployment.

If there were such an employment programme then it would have to be structured such that the 'state' does not benefit from the work done.

Otherwise you have just introduced a massive expansion of the public sector by the back door - and the incentive to get these people into the wealth creating private sector would be lost.

The objective should not be to directly reduce the cost to the state (taxpayer) - but to train/encourage the individuals to get work in the wealth generating private sector.

Payment should only be at 'benefit' level/minimum wage, so as not to compete with the private sector for these people.

As well as not benefiting the state, the work done should not benefit private businesses either, as this could mean they compete with genuine employees.

Also the risk with them working for 'charities' is that many supposed 'charities' now perform paid work (particularly for the state) competing with private businesses - again this resource should not undercut the genuine private sector.

This really leaves performing task for individual taxpayers - doing work that they prefer not to do, or that would not otherwise have been done.

As well as not benefiting the state, the work done should not benefit private businesses either, as this could mean they compete with genuine employees.

I agree that benefitting a single business could be wrong (unless they are time-limited to say 10 days per business?) but I'm sure there's some things that could be done that would be beneficial to general business in the area that wouldn't ever get done in the normal scheme of things.
This could be manual work, or providing a service eg. visiting local businesses matchmaking with others in the area.

If you are aiding businesses then you're more likely to get experience that leads into work - and if you already have spoken to local businesses then they might decide to employ you; no-one wins with interviews except the HR and acency staff.

PP, valid points. Perhaps there could be a system in which the state creates waged work and training for the unemployed, and then after a 12 month period that person is given a pathway into the private sector, where they will certainly be in a position to earn more.

Norm Brainer, interesting comments. It is a long-standing and rather tragic joke among DWP staff that the only people who have found jobs through the New Deal programme have been the £350 a week New Deal providors. The Labour government has certainly created gravy-trains in this area and their talk of paying people by results is flawed because any providor could easier work out a way of milking the govt coffers through meeting targets by pushing people into transient work opportunities. The old revolving benefits door that David Cameron has often talked about. We need to find a way to get peple into work without the gravy-train agencies who are a costly and often unnoticed drain on govt finances.

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